Tag Archives: reflection

The Anointed One

Psalm 2

This is a Messianic Psalm – meaning it talks about the Anointed One who God will send to rule the earth in the future (Jesus).

It opens up with a rhetorical question – why are people setting themselves up against God? These are people of power – kings and rulers – who are coming together against God. They seem to see Him as a killjoy, setting restricting rules for the sake of it, but the Psalmist undercuts this by using God’s covenant name – the LORD (Yahweh) to highlight His goodness and love. He cares for our wellbeing.

The word Lord also appears not written all in capitals – this is usually a translation of the word Adonai – a name for God that emphasises His authority.

The Psalmist sees the futility of their rebellion – he can see that God has anointed a King – His Son – who will rule over the earth and one day everyone will be subject to Him. But this can be a good thing – those who seek refuge in the Anointed will find it, those who worship Him will be spared.

The Psalms often present this choice to us – our way or God’s way: will we stand against Him or submit to His authority in our lives? This Psalm urges the nations to give up their rebellion and submit to the LORD who will give them refuge – if they don’t they will face His judgement.

I was struck by verse 11: “Serve the LORD with fear and rejoice with trembling” – it brought to mind those similar verses in Philippians 2v12-13, which tell us to “work out [our] own salvation with fear and trembling”. I think we can sometimes forget or even ignore the judgement and holiness of God – this reminds us that He deserves our respect and our worship.

Verse 8 also sent me searching for references: “I will make the nations your heritage”. One verse that suggests Jesus as the object of this promise (the one receiveing the heritage) is Hebrews 1v2, where He is described as the ‘heir of all things’.

What this verse reminded me of is the only clue Jesus gave as to when He would return. In Matthew 24v1-14, the disciples are asking Jesus how they will know when ‘the end of the age’ is coming. Jesus warns them not to be distracted by false teachers telling them the end is coming, then He gives the clue: “And the gospel of the Kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

Way back in the Psalms, Jesus, the Anointed One, was promised that all nations would be His inheritance, and He won’t return until every nation has been given the opportunity to hear and follow. Which makes our mission clear. We must take the news that Jesus is God’s Anointed One, who will judge those who set themselves up against Him, but will provide refuge to those who fear and trust Him.

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(Photo is of the stained glass window in the chapel at Goodrich Castle, Herefordshire)

Two ways to live

Psalm One (click to read!)IMG_0135

I’m not sure if this Psalm is officially counted as a Wisdom Psalm or not, but it definitely has some wise teaching for us.

The Psalm presents us with two ways to live and the consequences of each choice.

The first picture we are painted is of one who is slowly becoming more entrenched in wicked ways – first they are walking with bad influences and taking their advice. Then they stop and stand and hang around with those who do bad things. Then they sit and stay, not moving on, in the company of mean people.

The second picture is a contrast – and this is the person who God blesses – the one who delights in the Lord and studies His word. This person will not be easily led astray because he is deeply rooted in God, constantly being refreshed, connected to the source of life, as in John 15, and producing fruit (one assumes the fruit of the Spirit – Galatians 5:22-3). This person is full of life and prospers because he has deep roots (Colossians 2:7).

But the wicked person has no roots and quickly blown away. Here today, gone tomorrow.

Now we see the consequences – the wicked person is judged by God and brought down, but the righteous person is seen and known by God, they will grow and be refreshed.

These concepts of ‘wicked’ and ‘righteous’ can sometimes seem a little archaic to our ears, and people are never this black and white. I’m sure this psalm has been misused in the past to encourage young people away from ‘hanging out with the wrong crowd’. For me, however, that is not the takeaway. The man who is blessed is the one who is seeking God’s advice, God’s perspective, not man’s. He is looking for a heavenly mindset. It is so easy to get so used to culture, society, the media, that their messages which bombard us everyday become our standard pattern of thought. And ‘what goes in to the mind comes out in the life’ – we can so easily become the man sitting down in the company of nasty people without realising it.

Don’t get me wrong here – there are a lot of great and insightful and fun television programmes and films and books and art and music, and we can learn a lot from them. But there are a lot of these things (even some of the really good ones) that are at odds with the Biblical lifestyle. We have to make sure we are flooding our minds with the Word, so that that influences our lives more than the culture around us.

When I was at university, I developed a bit of an addiction to that wonderful sitcom, favourite to so many, Friends. (I still love it!) I got to the point where I would chain watch multiple episodes, even fall asleep watching it. And then I started to notice that when my friends were talking about problems in their lives, I could more easily bring up a joke from friends than an encouraging Bible verse. When I thought about my own life and relationships I could more easily relate it to what I was seeing onscreen than what I was reading in God’s word. It started to affect the way I thought about life and so, in the end, I gave myself a break from the show until I had got myself more stuck in the Bible and seeing things God’s way.

This isn’t easy but it is so much the better way, because it brings life and health and refreshment to our souls.

 

When a ‘No’ feels like a win

I officially finished my job yesterday, meaning today I am officially out of work.

At this point I feel like I should be crazily job hunting and widening my search for work, but actually I am relaxed. I have options and I have time. I’d rather have the ‘right’ job than just any job.

Last week I had a preliminary interview for a job that on paper seemed like a brilliant opportunity. It was in  church youth work (my field) and included training at the local Bible college. The staff and elders from the church whom I met at the interview were all lovely, and friendly and put me at my ease as soon as I arrived. They asked all the right questions, and listened to my story without judgement. They appreciated and understood what I had gained from my life experiences and how that influenced my work. The answered all my questions with what I wanted and hoped to hear from potential employers, and from a church family. The church itself was a lovely building, recently refurbished, with great spaces and equipment for the youth work. In all it ticked nearly all of my boxes of what I’m looking for in a job.

But I left with the feeling that it wasn’t the right opportunity for me, though I couldn’t quite put my finger on why. When people asked, I said I wasn’t sure that the village location would suit me (I’ve realised now that I am definitely a city girl at heart) but there was more to it than that. It just didn’t feel right.

I had a call from the church leader in the evening after the pre-interview saying that they would be taking up references that week and shortlisting for the formal interviews and would be in touch at the end of the week. I thanked them and said that although I was still interested in the post but would appreciate having a few days to think about it.

In my heart I knew that I wouldn’t be taking the job, but practically in my head I told myself I needed to think more about it. Because, without a job lined up, could I really afford the luxury of turning down a job?

So as the week went by I grew more sure that I was making the right decision, but was really nervous that the church would call and offer me a formal interview and I would have to turn it down.

But when they called… the church leader said that they had really enjoyed meeting me, I came over really well in the pre-interview and ticked all the right boxes in terms of what they were looking for… but… as they had talked and prayed about it they felt sure that it wouldn’t be the right situation for me. I was so relieved, I was over the moon. I explained that I had been feeling the same way, that I was really impressed by everything I’d seen and heard but just knew it wasn’t right for me.

So here’s the thing. Here’s the takeaway – God knows what He is doing. And He tells us. We just have to listen. The Holy Spirit speaks to everyone and there are beautiful moments where what we think God is saying to us is confirmed through what He is saying to other people.

I may not know right now where I am headed next. I have ideas, and they are exciting and I am waiting to see how the opportunities in front of me play out… But I have no definite answers right now. But I have hope. God knows where I am going, and He is at work, behind the scenes, preparing the place for me.

I’ve given up making plans for the future. I have ideas, dreams of what I want for my life, and I know God has an amazing plan for me that will let me achieve those dreams to His glory.IMG_0034

“And I will lead the blind

in a way that they do not know,

in paths that they have not known

I will guide them.

I will turn the darkness before them into light,

the rough places into level ground.

These are the things I do,

and I do not forsake them”

Isaiah 42v16

Perseverance

Hebrews 12:1-2, Hebrews 11:1

 

Beautiful Sunset

When I’m going through times when everything seems to be really hard work, which happens often, these are my favourite verses to keep me going.

Faith is sometimes seen as something wishy-washy and insubstantial, a vague hope in something seemingly unbelievable, or just wishful thinking. But faith is something so powerful in these verses. Hebrews 11 is one of my favourite passages in the Bible because it shows the power of faith in God. Verse 1 says faith is “assurance” and “conviction”, other translations use “confidence”, “being sure” and “being certain”. Jesus, as always, is our example of what this means. Hebrews 12:1-2 says that Jesus “endured the cross” because of “the joy that was set before him”. He knew that better things were to come and that enabled Him to endure the pain and shame of death on a cross.

Knowing what Jesus endured makes facing anything I come up against seem a little easier, mostly because I know He is here to help me. I know God has promised good things for my future, and maybe I don’t see them yet or how they will happen, but I have faith to endure the time of waiting and the difficulties that come with it. Several things I have watched/read recently have quoted the old saying that “the night is darkest just before the dawn.” If you’re struggling, have faith – there is joy to come in the morning.

The Lord has promised good to me

His word my hope secures

He will my shield and portion be

As long as life endures

sometimes the fork in the road…

fork slotted spoon

… is really a slotted spoon.

A few years ago I got to a point in my life where I was at a fork in the road. I was trying to decide what to do next in my life, and I seemed to have several equally good options to pick from.

My question was: what does God want me to do?

Around that time I read this passage in Psalm 19 (Message):

“The revelation of God is whole

and pulls our lives together.

The signposts of God are clear

and point out the right road.

The life maps of God are right

showing the way to joy.

The directions of God are plain

and easy on the eyes”

So I drew the first picture, and felt a lot happier because God was going to clearly show me which path He wanted me to take.

But He didn’t.

Instead He told me to choose…

What?!

The more I thought and prayed about it the more I felt God saying it was up to me what path I took.

A friend suggested that while God may have a “final destination” in His plan for me, I could take any number of routes to get there, more like the second picture and Isaiah 30v21 (NIV):

“Whether you turn to the right or the left,

Your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying,

‘This is the way.

Walk in it.”

 

It’s a few years down the line now, and I find myself in a similar position, although, somehow, with a lot less certainty that I’ll work out where I want to go. It’s hard not to feel that this last year I’ve been on a wrong path, as things haven’t really turned out the way I expected. But nothing in God’s kingdom is wasted and I know at the very least I’ve learnt a lot about myself and how to rely on God more.

Yet, it has been so comforting to come across these pictures and those passages again.  I know that I am on a journey and that wherever I am going, God is not only going with me, but He is already preparing the way ahead of me.